Learning from experts: Record number of high school journalists attend GSPA conference

Record number of high school journalists learn from industry experts at 2016 GSPA fall conference

Learning from the experts: More than 800 high school journalists, yearbook staff members and advisers attended the 2016 Georgia Scholastic Press Association’s fall conference, held Oct. 26-27 at the University of Georgia.

The conference boasted 61 classes for students to take based on their publication and interests. These ranged from yearbook, newspaper and broadcast classes to classes specifically focused on using Adobe products, learning how to interview and advice on how to better manage and help staffs.

“Since this was my first time planning the conference, I was a bit nervous and excited. I was astoundingly surprised by the number of attendees,” said GSPA Director Roxanna Gandía. “After speaking with a couple of advisers, I was thrilled to learn how students were enjoying themselves and leaving sessions having learned something new. It made all those months of preparation worth it.”

Throughout the conference, students involved with all mediums—from newspaper to broadcast—attended sessions given by experts in their individual fields.

One expert was Mark Johnson, head of the visual journalism program at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.  Johnson led two sessions on photojournalism: one for beginners and an advanced session for those looking to learn more about their cameras functions and abilities. In his first session, Johnson covered the motive behind taking a photo, and why it is important to care about your work. “You want to be looking for those moments of surprise, you want to be there for those moments of joy, and we have to care about the people we cover,” Johnson said.  “If you care, it shows.”

In attending these sessions, students were able to see that they weren’t alone in their struggles; other staffs had issues to work through, as well.

Philip Li, a senior from Lakeside High School and editor of his school newspaper, had one such realization in the “Real Talk” session led by Jon Reese, adviser at Decatur High School. “It made me really appreciate our staff’s cohesiveness and supportiveness of each other,” Li said. “It was beneficial to hear the problems other schools had faced and how they got through them and to learn from other experiences to better my staff.”

Many students also benefitted from the sessions by learning tips to fix problems they had been facing in their individual work. Also a senior from Lakeside, aspiring rapper Arjun Ray attended a session on caption writing. “I write a lot of perspectives pieces and I’m always told to better my captions, so I went to ‘Caption Writing and More,’” Ray said. “I found out that what you should do is make your caption so specific to your school that you couldn’t put it in another school and make it fit.”

Though there were plenty of sessions for students to attend, that wasn’t the only reason they came to the conference. Some attended exclusively to participate in the on-site contests: a photo contest, a publication critique and a first issue competition. The photo contest had six entries, while the first issue competition drew 11 newspaper entries, seven news website entries and three newsmagazine entries. Seniors Aelise Gagliano and Kristen Sherman, photojournalists from Starr’s Mill High School, are members of The Prowler. Both Gagliano and Sherman entered the on-site photo contest. “I got a camera for my 16th birthday. It’s my favorite thing to do and it’s what I plan on doing the rest of my life,” Sherman said. “I entered the contest to see if they liked my photos, to get a general critique.”

At one of the last sessions of the day, students had the opportunity to hear the results of the summer contest winners.

In the literary magazine category there were three school divisions: Small, Medium and Large school. The Small school winner was Woodward Academy for Silent Voices. The Medium school winner was Clarke Central High School for The Iliad.  The Large school winner was North Forsyth High School for Threshold. Of the three winners, Clarke Central received the “All Georgia” rating.

In the yearbook category the amount of entries this year was so high that winners were split into four categories: Small, Medium, Large No.1, and Large No.2. Winning for the Small category was Darlington High School’s Jabberwokk. The Medium category had two winners: Chestatee High School’s The Eagle and Woodward Academy’s Phoenix. The winner for the Large No. 1 category was Union Grove High School’s Wolverscenes, and the winner for Large No. 2 was West Forsyth High School’s Zephyr.  Of the five winners, Darlington School’s Jabberwokk received the “All Georgia” rating. Of the individual entries, there were twenty winners between the Literary Magazine and Yearbook entries with 54 entries being given a “Superior” rating.

Founded in 1928 by Grady College faculty, the Georgia Scholastic Press Association serves high school journalists and teachers in the state of Georgia. The organization hosts an annual fall conference, a spring workshop and a biennial advisers workshop. For more information about GSPA, visit www.ugagpsa.org.

Date: November 17, 2016
Author:  Andrew Hafermalz
Contact:  Roxanna Gandía,  rmgandia@uga.edu